Posts Tagged ‘Michael Amsden’

Road design class for bicycling comes to Detroit

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Mike Amdsen discusses possible improvements to the bike lane in front of GM's RenCen headquartersThe Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a training program for traffic engineers and planners that centers around designing roads for cycling. This year that program came to downtown Detroit.

What makes this program so effective is it’s led by John LaPlante, inarguably America’s leading expert in bicycle facility design. LaPlante is the primary author of the AASHTO guidelines for the development of bicycle facilities. He’s also a key figure in bicycle signage standards (via the MUTCD from the FHWA) and AASHTO’s pedestrian facilities design guidelines.

Laplante worked for the city of Chicago for 30 years include a stint as the Acting Commissioner of Transportation. In this role he was responsible for the planning, design and construction of all roads, bridges and mass transit facilities in the city of Chicago including their bicycle network.

Also leading the training class was Michael Amsden, the Bikeways Planner for the city of Chicago. Mike led us on a six-mile bike tour that made planned stops where he discussed options for improving the bike-friendliness of streets and intersections. Those stops included the mysteriously appearing and disappearing bike lane along Atwater and the super scary Broadway/Gratiot/Randolph intersection.

Representatives from the city of Detroit (5!), Wayne County, SEMCOG, Royal Oak, Corktown, MDOT and others were in attendance. Extra kudos go to the city of Detroit staff since the class coincided with the city’s first unpaid furlough.

Nearly all of the training was from the MUTCD and soon-to-be-release updated AASHTO bicycle guidelines.

One common theme was it’s best to implement bicycle facilities without removing much on-street parking. Removing parking only makes enemies and there usually are alternatives.

For example, some low-volume roads with on-street parking cannot accomodate bike lanes because they are not wide enough. If the parking is sporadic, one could simply stripe 7 foot parking lanes and add bike route signage. Most of the time, bikes would have access to an entire 7 foot lane, and with limited traffic, could easily skirt around parked cars. This is similar to Lincoln in Birmingham, except there should not be bollards (i.e. posts) in the road.

LaPlante also reinforced the message that in most cases sidepaths should not be built and designated for bicyclists. I noted that many Oakland County communities, including Oakland County itself, called sidepaths “safety paths.” LaPlante response was, “Safety paths? That’s an oxymoron.”

A big thanks goes to John Stroh III and his staff for providing an excellent meeting location at the Stroh River Place along the Detroit RiverWalk.

Here is our Detroit bike route (which we mostly followed) along with photos. You’ll likely want to view the map in a larger window in order to see the photos.

View Training Wheels – Detroit in a larger map